U.S. healthcare providers' experience with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases

Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2014 Jun;5(4):404-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2014.01.008. Epub 2014 Apr 6.


Surveillance indicates that tick-borne diseases are a common problem in the United States. Nevertheless, little is known regarding the experience or management practices of healthcare providers who treat these conditions. The purpose of the present study was to characterize the frequency of tick-borne diseases in clinical practice and the knowledge of healthcare providers regarding their management. Four questions about tick-borne diseases were added to the 2009 Docstyles survey, a nationally representative survey of >2000 U.S. healthcare providers. Topics included diseases encountered, management of patients with early Lyme disease (LD), provision of tick-bite prophylaxis, and sources of information on tick-borne diseases. Overall, 51.3% of practitioners had treated at least one patient for a tick-borne illness in the previous year. Among these, 75.1% had treated one type of disease, 19.0% two types of disease, and 5.9% three or more diseases. LD was encountered by 936 (46.8%) providers; Rocky Mountain spotted fever was encountered by 184 (9.2%) providers. Given a scenario involving early LD, 89% of providers would prescribe antibiotics at the first visit, with or without ordering a blood test. Tick-bite prophylaxis was prescribed by 31.0% of all practitioners, including 41.1% in high-LD-incidence states and 26.0% in low-incidence states. Tick-borne diseases are encountered frequently in clinical practice. Most providers would treat early LD promptly, suggesting they are knowledgeable regarding the limitations of laboratory testing in this setting. Conversely, providers in low-LD-incidence states frequently prescribe tick-bite prophylaxis, suggesting a need for education to reduce potential misdiagnosis and overtreatment.

Keywords: Lyme disease; Prophylaxis; Provider knowledge; Tick-borne disease; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tick-Borne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Ticks / microbiology*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents